The Stoic Case for Cutting People Some Slack
Worrying about other people’s behavior will only make you unhappy
One of many sad byproducts of the pandemic is that the nicer the weather, the more stressful the logistics of enjoying it. Taking a hike would be nice, wouldn’t it? Turns out, everyone else has the same idea, and, as we all know, “everyone else” is basically what we’ve been told to avoid. But, in this time of worry and irritation, some people seem to stand out more than others. In moments of weakness, it can feel impossible not to judge them.
One such moment occurred on a recent weekday afternoon when I was on a socially distanced walk with a friend. We’d timed our outing for before the end of the workday, hoping to miss the crowds, but no matter. Clusters of teens walked laterally across the sidewalk, maintaining enough distance from one another to make it impossible to keep one’s distance from them without walking directly into street traffic. There were the sheepish giant-stroller moms, clearly regretful of their unwieldy pre-pandemic baby registry choices. (Just because it’s the size of a Subaru doesn’t mean it’ll handle like one, and you would think stroller designers might have noticed this.) And, of course, there were the joggers. Many, many joggers.
“Rumph rumph rararuff mrumph!” my friend huffed from her CDC-approved position some two yards away, mask-muffled, as a bare-faced jogger loped past us with a far-too-narrow berth.
She repeated herself, louder and more slowly. “I don’t think anyone should jog right now. Ever.”
The former me, a jogger, might have defended their honor. Pandemic me, on the other hand, vociferously agreed. Joggers, man. Who do they think they are?
There’s a simple explanation for this finger-pointy attitude: The current crisis really sucks. I live in New York City, now the global epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. Every day, I wonder if and when I’ll learn that another person that I know has gotten sick with what’s presumed to be the virus (the count is currently at seven, an average of one infected friend for every week of quarantine). Hospitals are overwhelmed, livelihoods destroyed, and social inequities amplified.